Nakilat, a Qatari-owned shipping and maritime company, provides the critical transportation link in the State of Qatar’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply chain. Nakilat’s LNG shipping fleet is the largest in the world, comprising of 63 LNG vessels. Nakilat also manages and operates four large LPG carriers. Its business portfolios extend beyond shipping and include overseeing the activities of the country’s world-class ship repair and construction facility at Erhama Bin Jaber Al Jalahma Shipyard in Ras Laffan, offering a comprehensive range of maritime solutions, providing shipping agency, logistics, and towage support for vessels operating in Qatari waters.
The hybrid information technology (IT) infrastructure deployed by Fujitsu has enabled this shipping and maritime specialist to now move beyond simple cost savings to unlock new revenue streams for the company.
In 2014, spiraling technology costs caused Nakilat to reexamine its IT systems. Following a detailed review of its technology and processes, the company devised a detailed plan to overhaul its infrastructure and to regain control of its costs. The resulting comprehensive blueprint, dubbed Nakilat 2020, also outlined how the company would strengthen its foundations to ambitiously steer forward into the future.
Working closely with Fujitsu, the company deployed a complex hybrid IT solution on all its large vessels based around Fujitsu’s PRIMEFLEX vShape virtualization and private cloud reference architecture. The PRIMEFLEX vShape integrates highly scalable industry-standard components including storage, networking and virtualization software, all running on Fujitsu PRIMERGY servers. Nakilat also fully embraced Fujitsu’s concept of ‘workplace anywhere’ by deploying its virtual desktop infrastructure on board to further reduce the cost of its IT infrastructure.
While Nakilat had a clear vision for what its technology should deliver, the company identified that it needed a single technology partner to help bring it to life. Nakilat required a partner with broad expertise spanning infrastructure, middleware and its migration alongside capabilities in frontline services such as enterprise resource planning. In a nutshell, Nakilat wanted to collaborate with an experienced company that could help it achieve the desired digital transformation.
The starting point for Nakilat’s technology revolution was its core business – fleet management and operations. It might sound strange to deploy Fujitsu’s vShapes on a ship, but Nakilat’s ships are far from normal vessels. The highly sophisticated LNG carriers are the world’s largest, about the length of the Eiffel Tower or four full-sized football fields, and host more than 30 client devices per vessel. Hence, an implementation of this scale involved a substantial investment -considering the sheer volume and value of the cargo that Nakilat delivers to over 25 countries globally.
One of the most significant challenges that the company needed to overcome was that it was generally not easy to collect data on the fly in the maritime world, given that ships spend most of the time in the open ocean where limited or non-existent uplink speed to the cloud is an issue. Through this powerful solution, Nakilat is now able to collect and store data on each onboard vShape and only send it when convenient via the internet to its equipment at its Head Office in Doha, Qatar. This can be attributed to the fact that Nakilat is essentially implementing edge computing – that is, creating a network of floating data centers that collect, process and store the data collected, which is then pushed to the Head Office when connectivity allows.
The consolidated and hybrid IT environment not only significantly reduces the company’s technology costs, but has also revealed additional business opportunities. The streams of data that Nakilat now has access to, allow the company to effectively plan and enable new revenue streams for the business. In fact, Nakilat is now entering a third phase of deployment, where the true benefits of the complex hybrid IT environment are coming to light.
Nakilat’s fleet now collects data that no other company can track on the same scale, for example millions of records relating to everything from fuel use and international pricing to piracy across the world. All the data is sent to be processed and analyzed at the central SAP HANA database. Furthermore, the insights derived from the data can be monetized as they are of value to a broad cross section of Nakilat’s customers and partners.
For instance, Nakilat can now offer customers up-to-date weather information for remote parts of the oceans and sell data relating to machine performance to engine manufacturers. Meanwhile, detailed statistics relating to fuel costs at different worldwide locations help Nakilat’s charterers save money, while the company delivers insights regarding how much cargo goes to different countries. This information is of interest to many businesses, such as insurance companies. Providing valuable data for the customers’ benefit has become an additional source of revenue for Nakilat, on top of transporting cargo, all collected while the company is delivering its core services.
Another advantage of Nakilat’s hybrid environment is that the company is not tied to any specific technologies, thanks to the excellent implementation model. As such, it will be relatively easier to accommodate future requirements. The system is a combination of Fujitsu, SAP and Microsoft products, all running in perfect harmony. Technology is no longer considered a costly overhead, instead it is now a business niche for companies to remain competitive and be ahead of the race.
Fujitsu has worked with Nakilat at every step of the process so far and we have succeeded in co-creating a great deal, yet there are still more to come. We have only just started our digital transformation journey together.